We are driven by inspiration, and this month we talked to Zahraa Taher, the founder of FinMark Communications, to reinforce our belief that one should follow their passion to thrive.
“Communication is the backbone for both the corporate and social world.” – Zahraa Taher
OHLALA – Tell us a bit about you and your path to creating FinMark Communications.
Zahraa Taher – I am a proud Bahraini who was educated in local schools and joined Bahrain University to study Civil Engineering. Since I was a kid, I was very active in many school activities, and I used to work as a volunteer every summer in different places. All the various opportunities I had helped me build many skills and experiences, especially when dealing with people and communicating.
When I finished university, I had the chance to travel with my young brother to Pune, India, to continue my studies, and I can say this was where I felt I was transformed. It was a great experience. Over the years, I had lots of good mentors, one of them was John Wade, the Advisor to the Minister of Labour at the time; he suggested that I should explore the area of Public Relations (PR). This was not really a well-known career in the late ’90s. I thought it was like a clearance officer, but when I read about it and joined a small PR agency, I knew that this was really my passion. It was something built into my system since I was a kid. So, I worked in the agency doing both PR and events management until the day I was approached by an investor to start an event management company in Bahrain, this was in 2002.
I started the company with the support of one of my colleagues, built it from zero. In a few months, it became one of Bahrain’s most active events management companies, then it started serving the region. I hired many young people, trained them, and worked on most of the large events in the Kingdom, such as the opening of the Bahrain Financial Harbour, the laying of the foundation stone for Tala and Marsa Island, the official opening of the Bahrain Chamber and many others. In 2009, I felt something was missing; I was not fully satisfied. This was when my entrepreneurial spirit was born. In 2010, my business partner and I established FinMark Communications with offices in Bahrain and London, and our journey of success started.
OHLALA – How does FinMark Communications create a differential for its clients?
Zahraa – FinMark Communications offers international-standard services to our clients, with a local touch. My business partner, Laila Danesh, is an American who has worked in global markets and runs our London office; I have always worked in local and regional markets. In our field, it’s essential to know how to communicate and understand what is really acceptable, or not, locally. Still, at the same time, it is also important to have international practices. Many international firms open offices in our region, but they really do not invest in developing the local talent, and many local companies have the talent but do not have the experience in working in international markets, so we complete each other, and we serve our clients in the best way possible.
OHLALA – During this pandemic, what have been the most challenging moments you have been through?
Zahraa – The pandemic actually helped us to discover new potential skills and ideas. FinMark Communications was the first company in Bahrain to hold a totally virtual regional event in March 2020, for 300 local and regional delegates, to celebrate the 50th Jubilee of Awal Women Society, which was a significant milestone for both the society and for Bahrain. Yes, it was challenging as we did not have the experience, but we came up with the idea, and we implemented it and learned a lot. The biggest challenge during the pandemic for all the businesses was to survive and, thank God, due to our strong foundation and the tremendous support from our government in Bahrain, we endured the most difficult times.
OHLALA – How important is strong communication in the corporate world during crisis times?
Zahraa – Communication is the backbone for both the corporate and social world. In April 2020, FinMark Communications held a very important webinar for the members of the American Chamber of Commerce and others, highlighting the importance of communicating during any crisis. We encouraged all our clients to start speaking to their different target audiences. When you do not communicate steadily and consistently, people begin to speculate. I should also highlight that over-communicating is also not advisable. There should be a clear strategy for all conversations.
OHLALA – What do you think is the key ingredient to build a successful business?
Zahraa – Patience, satisfaction, thrive to excel, and mostly not to think of how much you are making at the beginning, but how much you are investing in laying the proper foundation for your business. That will help you survive complex and challenging times.
OHLALA – You breathe the seriousness of the corporate world; what do you do to disconnect and relax?
Zahraa – I have a great and supportive husband and family, and we do lots of activities together. I have friends from all stages of my life, primary school, high school, university, previous jobs, neighbours; I keep a close relationship with them and always arrange for group gatherings and adventures. Covid-19 did not stop any of that; however, we had more virtual meet-ups during the tough times. I have two girls; one is 15 years old, and the other is five years old, and I like to be involved in their lives as much as I can and do activities with them. I also love to travel, and I try to exercise as much as I can. I do not believe that work in the financial world should take over my life. Everything has its time, and to be a happy person, I should do my best to find the balance, even if it is very challenging.